After last week’s local food summit, I have to amend an old saying. The way to a man’s and woman’s heart and mind is through the stomach. The chefs stole the show and the food was phenomenal. Although the many lecturers gave great workshops, the demonstration kitchen was always packed. People would rather be in a room with the organic food than just talking about it.
Laura pulled out all of the stops in coordinating the meals. Getting meat and produce from Middle Tennessee’s organic farms to Nashville’s finest restaurants who then catered the event. I have always stressed the importance of eating the best when we have conferences, but this was over the top and we all thank Laura.
On Friday night we climbed the hill to Vanderbilt’s Dyer Observatory, one of Nashville’s hidden treasures. A dome houses the telescope that has been there since 1953. It’s a beautiful place and even more so when decorated with love and full of local food enthusiasts. Great music by Beth, Will, and Bill followed the great food served in style by students of the Art Institute’s Culinary Program.
Vanderbilt’s Health Plus hosted the Saturday event with 35 vendors exhibiting at the vibrant trade show at the Recreation and Wellness Center. Besides the kitchen workshops with the renowned Tyler, Sean and Sandor, a featured track was on farming’s role in climate change. It became obvious with Mark, Hugh L. and Hugh W. that we can sequester the excess atmospheric carbon causing problems in the air back into the soil through sustainable agriculture and intensive grazing.
The backyard gardening track is always popular. With Adam and Suzanna offering their years of experience in growing food with permaculture methods. A special treat was Dr. McBugg, Richard with his wealth of knowledge about insects. I am so glad to see a revival in home gardening the organic way.
But what will really make the big shift away from agribusiness to real farming is economics. Ken and John thoroughly understand that it is only through subsidies and crop insurance that the chemically dependent system prevalent today is artificially propped up. If we leveled the playing field the small family farm can return to clean up the air water and land, put people back to work, and offer healthy food. One of Vanderbilt’s graduate programs did an economic impact study of a local farm and the students got very excited to learn about the positive impacts we can have.
Virginia and Steve gave insights into the healthcare question, with their decades of work healing people by incorporating good diets with healthy food. The Middle Tennessee Refugee Agriculture Program discussed the community gardens they have growing in Nashville. Spirituality and food was the theme presented by Vanderbilt’s Divinity School, with Jason and Chas sharing inspiring stories of why Christians are joining the good food movement.
Matt and Miranda are successful restaurant owners sourcing local foods and explaining why this is important. An awesome lunch was followed by John’s keynote address which received a standing ovation for his clear articulation of what went wrong in agriculture and how the real farms, the small family farms, can and will make it right. The farmer-chef auction was amusing as ever as Lamar collected bids for 2-hour consultations with experts.
Vanderbilt’s University Club was the scene of the evening’s fantastic dinner by Chef Nick, and was topped off by a stellar concert by Darrell, Jamie, and Kenny. On Sunday we reconvened at Sulfur Creek Farm in the Bells Bend community for in-depth discussions on farming and marketing. This was followed by more great food by the Humble Flower Girls and a tour of the gardens by Eric and Loren.
Behind the scenes a cast of characters had been working hard, meeting weekly for many months to put the summit together. From the Nashville Food Project we thank Tallu and Claudia. Mike took the lead promoting us with help from Kris, Cayla, Chesley, and Judy. Vanderbilt’s team effort included Brad, Lynn, Justin, John, Courtney, Jim, Lori, Mary and a few others who need special appreciation. Brenda and Tom not only got it off the ground, but their kindness and encouragement throughout the planning was indispensible. Keith came through at the critical moments, but we would never have accomplished this important conference without Rocky and Lynn who have become my dear friends. Last but not least, I thank the farm crew who kept the vegetables growing back home, Phil and Alex and Kristina, whose communication skills and unbridled enthusiasm combined to make this event successful and the process fun.
Over 300 attendees also deserve our gratitude. They are the movers and shakers, and with all the great food in their stomachs now they will take this inspiration home to further a more just and sane food production and distribution system. Growing our own food and supporting sustainable farming may be the best ways to make this a better world. For more information please go to tnlocalfood.com.